Although it's been said many times, the political situation Catalonia is living through became definitively entrenched on 3rd October 2017, with that fateful speech by the head of state which said the Catalan institutions were outside of the law, validated the police repression of the 1st October and caused an insurmountable rift, at least until today, between a good part of Catalan society and the Spanish monarchy. That speech includes many of the keys to how Mariano Rajoy's government was pushed out of the playing field and a fundamentally judicial command chain was set up, with the collusion, in any case, of the Zarzuela palace.
Two years later, any visit by king Felipe VI to Catalonia is a long obstacle race between the hostility or indifference of the public and the boycotting of Catalan authorities who tend not to participate in any event where the monarch is present, except when there's a strong international presence. The Parliament of Catalonia has passed different motions opposed to the Spanish monarchy, the Catalan government has formally declared that the institution doesn't represent the Catalan people and there are many Catalan town councils who have taken stances against him.
There has not been, on the other hand, any gesture of the slightest rectification for that episode on the part of the Zarzuela, reproached on the odd occasion in public and many times, in a whisper, by the Catalan unionist and monarchic sectors. They've opted for weapons drawn, public silence and correcting what from Madrid could be seen as inaction in the case of Rajoy to act decisively against the independence movement or capriciousness in the case of Pedro Sánchez with the Pedralbes declaration which, by the way, is on the Moncloa government website and which some day it might be a good idea to take down or follow through on. For that reason, the statements published this Thursday by El Español are especially striking, attributed to one of the people who work by the king's side every day and which, at the time of writing, nobody has denied. The formula of collaborators together with that of a spokesperson are those which are often used to give veracity to news of an institution which only speaks officially through its speeches.
Through this spokesperson, we've found out three things: firstly, that the king doesn't regret anything he said and that he wouldn't change even a comma of his televised speech. Secondly, that there were many obstacles to being able to realise the speech since "we needed the full support of Rajoy's government, which had some doubts" and that the decision to carry it out was taken in the palace on the 1st itself, when Zarzuela told Moncloa that Felipe VI "wanted to step forward" and that, seeing the police charges, he never had any doubts. And, thirdly, that depending on the reaction in Catalonia to the Supreme Court's sentence, "if he has to speak again, he will". In these three phrases, everything that happened two years ago and that could happen again is concentrated. But also, the fundamental role he played and which many legal scholars have interpreted as if it were what the Constitution sets out for the head of state in this situation, a situation which some wanted to be like that faced by his father on 23rd February 19811 but which had nothing to do with it.
It wasn't a coup d'état, however much they've tried to present it as one and many of the members of the Catalan government who are not in exile are in prison, alongside the speaker of the Parliament at the time and leaders of pro-sovereignty bodies; and nor was the Spanish government being held like on that 23rd February. But, in this case, the maxim that the king speaks in the name of the government was fulfilled with an asterisk. Perhaps it would be more logical to say that the government signed up to what the king decided.
1. On 23rd February 1981, some 200 armed Civil Guard officers stormed into the Spanish Congress whilst it was in session to elect a new prime minister, the second since the restoration of democracy at the end of the previous decade. They held the deputies hostage for 18 hours; the attempted coup ended after it was condemned in a televised speech by king Juan Carlos in the early hours of the following morning.